A Recap of the 2019 CAP Field School

The 2019 CAP Field School staff, volunteers, and director Dr. Stacey Camp
The 2019 CAP Field School staff, volunteers, and director Dr. Stacey Camp (right)

This past May and June, the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) hosted a 4-week undergraduate archaeology field school on campus. Fifteen undergraduate students were enrolled in the course; thirteen undergraduates were from MSU or MSU alumni and the other two students commuted from the University of Michigan, Flint.

The goal of this field project was to find artifacts in association with an historic homestead located next to Holmes Hall on the corner of Shaw Road and Hagadorn Road. The property was once occupied by the Toolan family from 1870 until approximately 1920. The property was rented out to several different families in the 1940s. In June of 1953, warranty deeds show that the Toolan family sold the property to MSU. Between 1953 and 1965, MSU demolished the homestead in preparation for the construction of Holmes Hall, which was built in 1965.

Over the course of the field season, we excavated three 2×2 meter excavation units and two 1×1 meter excavation units. Artifacts recovered from the field school that date to the time period in which these families occupied the landscape include a Phillips Milk of Magnesia cobalt blue glass bottle fragment dating from 1900 to ca.1915; an aqua glass mineral water/soda bottle with an applied finish dating from 1875 to 1920; a 1937 mercury Dime; and a lapel pin from The Home Insurance Company that was founded in 1853. Another curious and exciting archaeological find was a small ceramic fragment featuring a logo used by MSU between 1925 and 1955. The project culminated in a public archaeology outreach day where students could share what they found and what they learned from excavations.

Students learned archaeological field methodologies, archival research, artifact dating and identification, and how to use digital tools and tablets to document and record archaeological data. MSU Archives gave students a tour of the many historical resources on campus. Jerry Wahl, Campus Arborist, trained our students in how to excavate near and around tree roots as to avoid killing our campus’ historic and contemporary trees. Undergraduate student Mary Murphy did a workshop on artifact illustration for our field school students. Jack Biggs, a current PhD student in our program, taught our students photogrammetry and artifact 3D modeling. Munsell, who makes soil color books used in archaeological fieldwork and is a Michigan-based company, visited our site and showed field school students and staff how to use their new Munsell CAPSURE Color Matching Tool. This tool is a small hand-held device that identifies different colors of soil.

The field school would not have been a success without the dedicated time and effort our staff and volunteers put into training our students. Jeff Burnett, a current PhD student in the Department of Anthropology, served as the field school’s teaching assistant and was an immense help to the project. Campus Archaeologist and current PhD student Autumn Painter put a great deal of time into making sure this project and several other projects taking place on campus during the summer were successful. Campus Archaeology Staff members Jeff Painter, Amber Plemons, and Jack Biggs, GIS intern and MSU undergraduate David Mainero, MSU undergraduate Andrew Taylor, and alumni Louis Kelley and Amy Hair also helped in teaching and training our undergraduate field school students. Thank you to Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities (IPF) and MSU Archives for their continued support of Campus Archaeology.

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02.26.20